Tuesday, November 10, 2015

OT: Travel Trailer vs Tiny House

Back in the day, Ms Ché and I bought a travel trailer on the premise that since we were moving around so much for work in theater, it would make sense to take our housing with us rather than have to rent apartments or houses for a few months before moving on. It didn't quite work out the way we thought, though, because almost as soon as we got the trailer I started working at a place where I stayed for several years, so we weren't traveling like we had been at all any more. The trailer was parked next to the house where Ms Ché's mother lived, and we used it for guests and whatnot. Then I sold it for essentially what I'd paid for it. So all in all, it worked out fine.

The trailer was a Kit Road Ranger, 8' X 20' or 22' feet, surprisingly complete, with a kitchen and full bathroom (tub and shower), and sleeping room for 5 or 6, depending on how big or small they were. We slept in it and had guests who slept in it, and we thought it was remarkably comfortable, and so did our guests, but it always seemed cramped to me, I think because the ceilings were low and everything was fit in so tightly. Travel trailers tend to have a lot of stuff fit into them, and I'm not sure all of it is necessary.

When we moved to our place in New Mexico, there were two outbuildings on the property, a garage and a shed.

The shed was probably built when the house was, or soon after, around 1900, and it seems to be falling apart, but actually it's holding up pretty well. It's about 12' X 12' and we store random stuff in it "temporarily." It was used as a horse stall for a while and feral cats have had a few litters in it, I'm sure. I've been periodically cleaning out stuff we can do without, so it's becoming a pretty decent storage space or workshop. It had electricity and a wood stove at one time, years ago, but the electric line was cut and the stove taken out before we moved here. I'm assuming they can be replaced eventually.

The garage, probably built in the 1920s -- it looks to be from scrap lumber --  is about 10' X 20'. The main door is broken and doesn't raise or lower. The side door is working but not very well. There is no window. The exterior is covered with stucco that is falling off the scraps of lumber that serve as sheathing, and the interior is mostly filled with stuff we hold onto because "we might need it sometime." Lots of tools and things, lawn mower, garden chipper, tiller, yadda yadda, but there are also some book boxes and miscellaneous household stuff that I was going to move to the attic of the house -- but never did. Well, that's a whole other story.

When we moved here, we got two other outbuildings from Weather King, an 8' X12' studio, very cute, and an 8' X 16' metal storage building that was supposed to be temporary, but has turned into something more permanent. Both the studio and the storage building are filled with stuff we brought from California. Too much stuff...

So we now have four outbuildings, and I'm thinking of turning them into tiny houses and making a village of them. What fun. The house we live in, this rambling old pioneer adobe, is actually just about the largest house we've ever had, close to it anyway. It's not really a big house as those things go, but it feels like it. If there are rooms we can close off and not even heat in the winter because we don't use them or use them so rarely, then the house seems pretty large.

The tiny house movement (so the advocates and enthusiasts call it) is quite a phenomenon. Much more so than the RV/trailering movement I recall from when I was much younger than I am now. I think it is because they appeal to different sorts of people.

Tiny houses, let's be blunt, cost a veritable fortune, even if you build it yourself, whereas a travel trailer can be bought complete for relatively little. $5,000 vs $50,000 or more for the same or a similar sized structure is quite a difference. Ours cost less than $4,000 back when; a similar model might cost $10,000 now, but still, it's much, much less than a tiny house.

A tiny house can easily cost you $50,000 or more (Tumbleweed tiny houses cost $60,000 or more, well more). Travel trailers -- new or used -- can cost dramatically less, and because they are complete when delivered, they generally provide shelter with little fuss or muss. And they're legal. You just move in. There you are. You are usually without your stuff, too, which can be a liberating thing it seems to me. Well, you have just enough stuff for necessities and nothing more.

A tiny house on the other hand is meant to be a very small version of a site-built house or a cabin, both inside and out. It's heavy and solid, whereas a travel trailer is light and flexible. A travel trailer has a lightweight metal skin whereas a tiny house is generally clad with wood siding. Solid wood, too. One could go on describing the differences, but the point is that a tiny house is usually a miniature imitation of a permanent structure whereas a travel trailer is what it is, a portable (temporary) shelter.

So when I look around our place here and see four outbuildings, mostly full of random stuff, I'm thinking, "What would happen if we got rid of (most of) the stuff, and turned each of these buildings into a (sort of) tiny house?"

Each could be adapted in its own way... And actually all of them are more than ample size for a tiny house experiment... I'm intrigued with the possibilities.

The shed, the original shed that came with the property, would probably not be turned into a tiny house. Instead, I think it would do nicely for storage and for a workshop. The garage, on the other hand, could be quite a nice little abode, and at 10' X 20' (or 22', I'm not sure), it's likely to be quite luxe. I'll have to think about how to plan it...

The studio, interestingly, could become a teeny little guest suite, or even what it was intended to be, a garden retreat for Ms Ché to write in. It could have a bathroom (of sorts) and a tiny-little kitchen. It has two lofts as it happens, and either of them (or both, I suppose) could be used for sleeping.

The metal storage building is actually big enough to become a tight but adequate guest suite with a kitchenette and bath, but it's not tall enough for lofts, so sleeping arrangements would be tight and would have to be on the main and only floor.

Of course we have a guest room in the house as well, and I've thought of finishing the attic one day. If that ever happened, we'd have two or three more rooms upstairs and another bathroom. Possibly even a balcony from which to watch the mountains and the sparkling night sky.

One of our neighbors has two Airstreams beside their house, and their house is a large 5th wheel travel trailer that has been expanded with a site-built room or rooms.  It's actually very nice. They've taken one of the Airstreams on trips. The other, they said, was intended for guests, but they've never used it because of some problems with it. There's a broken window, and the interior is kind of rough. They say they'll fix it up one day, though.

So far as I know, no one around here has a tiny house, though quite a few have travel trailers. One neighbor recently acquired a vintage model, probably from the 1950s. It's in fairly rough shape now but they intend to restore it.

Ah but sometimes the best laid plans...


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